For the first time since March of 2011, Illinois Basketball looks like a program rather than a series of desperate stop-gap measures. There’s no fifth-year transfer learning a new system. Every position will be manned, once Jalen Coleman-Lands is fully recovered, by an experienced starter. Talented sophomores will back-up seniors en route to becoming talented seniors backed by future sophomores.
I’m going to guess that Michael Finke will continue to start at power forward, even after Leron Black’s suspension. I suspect Maverick Morgan will continue to start at center, even as Mike Thorne’s conditioning improves.
I expect Coleman-Lands to move into the starting spot currently held by Aaron Jordan, but I also have a hunch that defense will be the determining factor.
Point guard play pleased John Groce to such an extent that Te’Jon Lucas didn’t see the floor until the fourth quarter.
Tracy Abrams made half of his ill-advised shots, and all of his advised ones. Jaylon Tate connected from three (sic). Otherwise, those two veterans played exactly the way you’d expect, except for the 7:7 assist-to-turnover ratio.
When Lucas finally saw the court, there wasn’t much left to do. Groce emptied the bench, and each irregular Illini tried to take over the game individually, ostensibly to get his name in the box score.
If you’re looking for something to be alarmed about (and I know you are), it’s Mike Thorne’s post-game comment about his field goal percentage.
Thorne is intelligent, sensitive and funny. These are great characteristics for any human being. But for sporting purposes, you might prefer a killer instinct.
Last year, Thorne pooh-poohed the bank shot as obsolete, an anachronism. Instead, Thorne prefers to fling the ball toward the goal. About half the time, it drops through the ring.
Shooting 50% is normally considered good. It’s terrible if all those shots come from less than four feet away. That’s like missing Bucket #1 in the Bozo Grand Prize Game.
The reason he made all his shots on Friday is because he dunked the ball.
Yes, his spinning left hook bounced in, too. But 50% of the time, that’ll happen. On this occasion, it was the right 50%.
If Dustin Ford or John Groce could somehow reach Mike, and persuade him to dunk every time, Illinois would be much likelier to prevail in this season’s close games.